Orlowsky Defends Lorillard's Marketing of Menthol Cigarettes..

September 2, 2008 - Defending the marketing of menthol cigarettes by Martin L. Orlowsky, Chairman, President and Chief executive officer, Lorillard Tobacco Co., 8/21/2008. In brief, Orlowsky claims that Lorillard markets its Newport brand cigarettes to adult smokers of all ethnicities. He writes: the truth is that our marketing is not disproportionately directed to African-Americans. The truth is that we do not target underage smokers.

Mr. Orlowsky (Marty)has been a Director of Lorillard since January of 1999, and has served in that capacity while the Company was still owned by Loews Corporation until June 10, 2008. Mr. Orlowsky has served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Lorillard since January of 1999 and added the Chairman’s position in January 2001. Previously, he served as President and Chief Operating Officer and prior to this position he was Executive Vice President, Marketing & Sales. He has been with Lorillard since 1990. (Lorillard, Inc.)

Sales of Newport are the highest in Eastern United States (US) especially in urban centers of the Northeast and this is where marketing activities are concentrated. In 1993 Newport became the #1 menthol cigarette in the US. Lorillard has for decades concentrated on building the Newport brand among the young. A 1978 Lorillard document, which said that the brand's growth was driven by "black people (all ages)" and "young adults (usually college age)" but added that "the base of our business is the high school student." By 1983, Newport had the youngest franchise of any brand, with 53 percent of sales to people aged 18 to 24, and it had doubled its penetration of the young black market, according to an RJR document. Newport succeeded because Lorillard relentlessly focused its ads at blacks living in the Northeast, according to industry analysts. A 1969 memo by rival R.J. Reynolds noted that Lorillard's "Negro market budget was increased 87 percent over 1968." The majority of the increase went to build Newport among black Americans. (Slugfest in the Smoke Ring by Brett D. Fromson, Washington Post, 3/1/1998; Page H01))

Menthol is much more than a flavoring agent - it has many uses as a chemical cooling agent, e.g., in cold cures to reduce nasal congestion and coughing.

While in a local convenience store I watched the Lorillard salesperson place a new Newport promotion sign behind the checkout counter. He could select either side of the sign - one side with a Caucasian couple and the other with an African-American couple - which side do you think he chose??

More on menthol and tobacco smoking.

Click on image to enlarge.. (TobaccoWatch.org)